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Journeys Into the Scare-the-Shit-Out-Of-You Unknown

May 27, 2009

I asked the possibly-kinky person how serious they were when they spoke of handcuffs, bungee cords, and anal beads. After their comment last night that “a little pain isn’t a bad thing” I was pretty sure they were fucking kinky. It put me in a really good mood.

They’re not. It was jokes. The pain comment was meant in general, not sexual terms.

They were really cool about it though, and a very good discussion followed. I am, however, truly disappointed. Sad disappointed.

There was one other person nearby who I could unreservedly talk to about being kinky, who while definitively not kinky themselves had had kinky partners and was familiar with and had lived in sexual subcultures. They left under circumstances which may not allow me to see them ever again, and the grief that I feel over the loss of even so new a friend is unlike anything I have ever felt before.

Now that the potentially kinky person is not, I have exhausted my possibilities for finding someone to relate to sexually at the present time and place. I feel sad and uncertain. I don’t think it’s the end of the world.

Interestingly, my non-kinky crush-person came right out and asked the “And you’re sure this is not the result of abuse and a fucked up culture?” question, rather than secretly thinking it while acting supportive. I respect that.

Now, I believed that for a long, long, long, long time. I believed it as recently as this. Unlike the author of “Liberating Ourselves in the Boudoir, An Anarchist-Feminist Perspective Against BDSM” (brought to my attention via Subversive Sub) who feels that BDSM is categorically unhealthy, I had reached the conclusion ‘The damage is done, live with it as healthily as you can, and go enjoy yourself.’ I could not see how my desire to control and hurt and bind could be anything other than a scar of Civilization, of patriarchy, of colonialism, of technophilia, of this culture that is destroying the world.

But then, prompted again by Subversive Sub, this little tiny inkling began to trickle out of the locked-up portions of my brain into the ones I allow myself to think about, that maybe my sexuality was not a product of this fucked up culture. That instead, this destructive culture had culled the expression of these desires to the so-called ‘dark,’ the evil, the unhealthy, the psychotic, the twisted, the high-heeled. That my expression of my sexuality was stunted because in this culture there is no other alternative. You express dominance and submission, sadism and masochism the way the culture expresses it –in war, oppression, torture, genocide, self-harm, rape– or not at all.

Growing up, I never read a book that described the beauty and fulfillment and sexiness of giving and receiving pain, of giving and receiving control. What I read were books that described torture, breaking, enslavement, interrogation, and rape. That’s the way things were. That’s the only way pain and control and dominance and submission could be expressed. Look at kink. What tropes do you see?

What is killing me in this moment is that it is accepted by kinky people. Kinky culture, as I have experienced it and understand it, buys into the idea that kink is dark, twisted, dangerous, and just a little bit wrong, no matter how much we proclaim our desires to be normal and healthy.

I’ve read a lot of glorification of ‘exploring your dark side’ from sex-/kink-positive people in blog-land. What is this ‘dark side’ you speak of? When I examine my fantasies inspired by the colonialist/imperialist/capitalist/war-mongering/genocidal/civilized culture I was born into, yeah, shit seems pretty dark, but in actual practice? There is nothing dark about what I do with another person, when I hit them and bite them and tie them and cover their mouths with my hand. It’s so fucking beautiful, and intimate, and full of trust, and fucking hot. It’s not an exploration of my dark side, it’s an exploration of myself, what I am, what we are.

I have similar reactions to people who claim kink is countercultural or revolutionary. It’s not. It just is. Having the sex you like and fulfilling yourself and your partner(s) rather than remaining repressed and oppressed, that’s revolutionary. But it’s not counterculture just because there’s a set of handcuffs or pain.

“But if that’s what people are into…” someone insists.

Even taking civilized, cultural, or intrinsic arguments out of the equation, very simply these tropes are not mine. They are other peoples’, other cultures’, other eras’, other governments’, other societies’, other economies’ ideas. I did not create them out of my own experience living and interacting with dominant, submissive, and switch people (or other gradations). These are the tropes I adopted because there was nothing else. They were the only dynamics that gave any validation to this hungry, unfed, squashed, crushed part of me, and so I clutched them to myself. At the same time I punished myself for wanting such evil, sick, bad, wrong things so, so badly. The only way I could handle it was to create a dichotomy within myself of ‘evil’ and ‘acceptable’ dominant and sadistic acts.

But there is this whole realm of expression of dominance and sadism out there that I’m just beginning to see faint hints of, forms of expression that civilized culture doesn’t even acknowledge exist. And because ‘The Scene’ is merely a subculture of Civilization –no matter how countercultural it would like to believe itself– The Scene does not acknowledge these forms of expression either. The kink community has adopted the same walls of the mainstream while busily deluding itself that it is pushing the boundaries of society.

I still get off on slavery fantasies, and rape fantasies, and torture fantasies, and interrogation fantasies, and breaking fantasies. I don’t necessarily think I should stop having these fantasies as long as they are also enjoyable to my partners and I understand the difference between fantasy and reality (you know, that part where we’re really equals and I can’t actually do anything to you you don’t want me to).

But there is so much more. So much that has existed that we were never told. So much that I can create with my own personal experience of interacting with partners rather than subsisting on the scraps and dregs we scavenge from the dominant culture.

I know I am not writing this as clearly as I could, but this is the first time I’ve tried to say it explicitly. I have also not edited this nearly as much as I normally do posts, because it is still swirling and bubbling and fermenting and fomenting inside of me and it is messy and it’s not going to be neat and tidy and thesis-like for quite some time. Maybe never.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. May 27, 2009 6:47 am

    “buys into the idea that kink is dark, twisted, dangerous, and just a little bit wrong, no matter how much we proclaim our desires to be normal and healthy.”

    Yes! Arg! Yes, yes, yes!

  2. May 27, 2009 7:29 am

    I don’t kink on sin either.

    i also spent a long time wondering if I was kinky at all because I wasn’t into the bdsm culture stuff….

  3. May 27, 2009 11:28 am

    I think you hit the nail on the head with this bit:
    “I don’t necessarily think I should stop having these fantasies as long as they are also enjoyable to my partners and I understand the difference between fantasy and reality (you know, that part where we’re really equals and I can’t actually do anything to you you don’t want me to).

    But there is so much more. So much that has existed that we were never told. So much that I can create with my own personal experience of interacting with partners rather than subsisting on the scraps and dregs we scavenge from the dominant culture.”

    People have different standards of beauty. What I find attractive or desirable is particular to me, most of that developed from my own life experiences. (I do believe that some things that I find attractive are inexplicable and are “innate” preferences, but I can trace back most things I do like to general experiences I’ve had in my life that helped me develop that particular attraction.)

    Those outside of our culturally-defined kink, who don’t have kinky tastes, they try to relate expressed kinky feelings to a life experience… and all they can come up with are things that our society has said are dark/evil/bad/something negative. There’s no acknowledgment that our desires may be innate. Or, that our desires come from an extremely positive experience. I know I’ve developed a number of my kinks, slowly, with my lover. Sex is play and through the years, we’ve molded and changed the nature of our play to suit our own mutually-developing tastes. What we do together is an expression of our affection for each other, our desire for each other, and the happiness of our relationship. It’s unfortunate that some people see this as negative or wrong because of their lack of context.

  4. ranat permalink*
    May 27, 2009 3:25 pm

    @Sara – Heh, I was reading your post on kinking on sin. I have a very different conception of dirt than most people in my culture of origin. I realized as I was reading your post that I didn’t understand how people could see dirt as humiliation, or taboo. Dirt is life, dirt is richness and abundance. Dirt is where plants grow and what we become when we die. Dirt is its own universe of microorganisms without which we could not exist, and which we barely understand. Dirt is sexy, because when you work with the land it gets under your fingernails and into your skin, and it smells like everything good that ever was. With sweat and rainwater it becomes smears and trickles, art on the body. Dirt is, for lack of a better term, not dirty. After water and air and sunlight, it’s the basis of life as we know it.

    I could happily ramble on, but I think I’ve given the general idea. :D

    @ Dw3t Hthr – I grew up entrenched in a culture that worshiped sin (both as the thing we should avoid, and the forbidden fruit). Whenever I actually acknowledged my desires (even if I didn’t acknowledge them as desires), I always concluded that they must be sin. Because everyone agrees that beating people is always wrong, right? But I never thought it was awesome that I was into all this sinful stuff. That what I wanted was sin was the unfortunate side-effect. I didn’t want it to be sin. I wanted it to be normal and good. Whenever I make up imaginary d/s and s/m cultures in fantasy, no one is reveling in how dark and mysterious and taboo it is. It’s a part of daily life, taken for granted.

    That’s what I want. I want to live in a culture where the fact that I’m dominant is taken for granted, without always having to explain that it’s not a dysfunction to each new person I share myself with. I want to create a culture where young people blooming into these identities can go to someone else who shares that identity and ask questions, and be supported to explore with counterparts. Where it is completely and utterly normal.

    @lilblackdress – Even as I wrote this–

    “I don’t necessarily think I should stop having these fantasies as long as they are also enjoyable to my partners and I understand the difference between fantasy and reality (you know, that part where we’re really equals and I can’t actually do anything to you you don’t want me to).”

    –I was still feeling conflict within myself. Because –and I feel I can finally say this without anxiety– I would really rather I did not get off so hard on fantasies of rape and torture. Honestly, I would rather that was not a part of my psyche. After coming out, it’s been this flood of “Oh my God it’s okay thank God other people do it too it’s okay,” and only the most extreme scenarios have been able to take me to orgasm. I really believe part of that is because I repressed it so tightly for so long.

    But the fact remains: I get off on rape fantasy and torture fantasy. I can finally just say that. And some day, the fact that I said that in public, on the internet, is going to come and bite me, hard.

    The distinction I’m finding within myself is that fact that I get off on those fantasies is not a part of my intrinsic dominance. Neither are they desires I created with another person like you did with your lover. Instead, these fantasies are the only way the culture around me acknowledged the exchange of control and the exchange of pain, so they were the only thing I knew.

    When I look at kink, especially when I look at all the people who remain unfulfilled despite finding The Scene, I see people who have based their desires not on their own experiences, but on concepts and institutions created by others (not particularly sane others, either). I think so many of us have traded in our own desires at the doors of The Scene in exchange for the elusive golden carrot of finding someone like us.

  5. Ireen permalink
    May 28, 2009 11:46 am

    This is an awesome post! Thanks for writing it!

    Especially that part’s gonna keep my head busy for a while, I guess:

    “What is killing me in this moment is that it is accepted by kinky people. Kinky culture, as I have experienced it and understand it, buys into the idea that kink is dark, twisted, dangerous, and just a little bit wrong, no matter how much we proclaim our desires to be normal and healthy.”

  6. ranat permalink*
    May 28, 2009 1:09 pm

    @Ireen – It’s the real kicker isn’t it? We find a subculture allegedly just for us, and then….

  7. Leah B permalink
    May 29, 2009 3:38 am

    Often when I comment on your blogs, all I manage to do is paste a sentence or two that you’ve written and tell you how astounded I am that there are people out there, even if they are a little far away, who manage to articulate what I’ve been thinking.

    I’m going to do it again.

    “There is nothing dark about what I do with another person, when I hit them and bite them and tie them and cover their mouths with my hand. It’s so fucking beautiful, and intimate, and full of trust, and fucking hot. It’s not an exploration of my dark side, it’s an exploration of myself, what I am, what we are.”

    Fucking… wow. Thank you.

  8. ranat permalink*
    May 29, 2009 4:37 pm

    @Leah B – Well, I’m glad someone finds it articulate, rather than incoherant.

    This whole issue is a maze for me. It is twisty and turny and messy and fraught with dead ends.

  9. bybloemen permalink
    June 12, 2009 7:35 am

    Thanks for writing this.

    I rambled on about exploring the dark side on my blog a bit. Hope I didn’t misunderstand or misrepresent you there!

  10. ranat permalink*
    June 17, 2009 12:37 am

    @bybloemen – I do not feel misrepresented. :) I think the shadow-self concept is very interesting. I’ve definitely gone through a similar process to what you’ve described.

  11. August 12, 2010 9:30 pm

    Thanks for this post; it is quite made of awesome.

    Re: “dark side”: I actually *do* think of myself as engaging in some dark shit when I do some of the kink that I do. The difference is that I don’t think of darkness as a bad thing, any more than Dw3t Hthr thinks of dirt as a bad thing. Darkness to me just means the wild, the free, the things that have been suppressed by the civilization you’re talking about when you talk about darkness.

    The trouble with the wild and the free is that they often are dangerous. When my lover tests my tolerance by caning the fronts of my thighs and letting me bite into his arm to manage the pain while tears stream down his face, that’s pretty dark. When I restrict someone’s blood flow and whisper to them about how easily I could kill them and that makes them come – that’s fucking dark. It’s liberated, it’s admitting how close sex and death really are, it’s delving into parts of our psyche that are very old, and animal, and fierce. It’s not just wanting to fuck someone into a stupor, but to drink their blood while you do it.

    And that’s hot, which is why I do it – not because it’s hip to play with the darkness. Does that make any sense?

  12. ranat permalink*
    August 13, 2010 6:12 pm

    Glad you enjoyed it. :)

    I see where you’re coming from with how you relate to darkness. When you take value judgments out of the equation, darkness becomes very different than its perceived in the common moralistic argument. For me, I abandoned the dark/light paradigm in my teens because it just didn’t make sense to me. Everything just was. When I dig underneath all my insecurities, the old, animal, fierce, predatory nature of my sexuality doesn’t feel necessarily like it belongs in a different category than taking a walk or eating a salad.

    It is rather appropriate that the wild, the free, the things suppressed by civilization would be the “darkness” since it was largely early civilized cultures that really pushed the whole diurnal primacy and demonized the dark. :P

    There have been times in the past couple of months when I’ve explored being a “monster” in a similar context as you feel about darkness. Where being a monster isn’t bad, or wrong, but is more like the concept of kachina in North American South Western cultures. That maybe desires like mine existed to be the shadows on the wall that show us the range of what it means to be human. There is something there for me, I think, but I don’t know what it is.

    I would like to say that my desires aren’t really different from anybody else’s, and some people who don’t share my desires have told me they feel that way. On the other hand, I’ve met far fewer people who shared desires like mine than had desires like those portrayed in movies and romance novels. Then again, a lot of that could be cultural conditioning, and the silent majority. I am, however, finding my perceptions of there being not as many “people like me” as “people like them” challenged, because I’m finding desires like mine in utterly unexpected places, with no connection whatsoever to BDSM or kink subculture. It’s pretty amazing.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  13. August 22, 2010 7:25 pm

    When I dig underneath all my insecurities, the old, animal, fierce, predatory nature of my sexuality doesn’t feel necessarily like it belongs in a different category than taking a walk or eating a salad.

    That’s the way I feel. Well, I feel that way, and then I err on the side of opening up on what we’ve been doing at one point or another, and I see people closing up like clams. I’ve actually just stopped talking about our sex life with my friends. This, to me, is a huge deal, because I’ve always been very open about sexuality and made it a big deal to speak about it openly so people would see diversity and not be so ashamed. Especially women, the people I mostly speak with. But it’s just… unnecessary. They don’t understand, they react badly and we both feel bad afterwards.

    I also feel that many, many people, almost all I speak with, are just somehow disconnected from their sexual self, so it’s impossible to have any mutual ground at all, when they won’t admit even that sexuality is an important part of who they are. And then some friends of mine are skewing outwards when I’m skewing inwards. They are playing games to make it seem like they have this great and spectacular sex life, but they don’t know what they want or need, and they don’t seem to be in sync with their bodies – or the bodies of their partners – at all. It’s just a hunt for orgasm and if they get it, that’s enough. There is nothing else.

  14. ranat permalink*
    August 22, 2010 9:22 pm

    I’ve just begun to talk about my sex life to the people I live with in ways where I’m truly out in the open, not just close enough to my rock to dash back under if I get scared. And it has led to some amazing connections I never thought I would make, and a sense of fun and freedom. But I also just had someone tell me the other day how uncomfortable they felt when I talked about that kind of sex, or sex in general around their partner. It was challenging to hear, but I know that I’m not responsible for their reaction, and so do they. I’m not feeling the the self-protective urge to clam up around it, but I’m getting perspective for how much sharing feels comfortable for me and the people around. My natural instinct is that for me sex and sexual expression is not a private affair, but for many people it is. I don’t have any conclusions about that, just an awareness of it.

  15. August 23, 2010 2:22 pm

    Hmm, that could be it. I feel paradoxically that our sex life is now more intimate and a more private affair, as you put it, now that I only share it with the internet. I don’t want to try to get a validation out of anyone else. We know what we share, others cannot, they are not in our relationship and they have their own hangups and beliefs. And I have to say – I never felt I’d made love before we were together with Wonderboy. Maybe there was something emotionally important missing… That’s what people miss when they try to categorize us as BDSMers. It’s about sharing emotions as much as anything else.

Trackbacks

  1. I Am Jealous of Vanilla People « beyond the hills
  2. Shadows and darkness « bybloemen
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  6. On Finding It Where You Can Get It | beyond the hills

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